tv Tavis Smiley PBS September 30, 2011 12:35am-1:00am EDT
she was the subject of the pbs documentary, "taking root." >> we have a government in this country that is overseeing the obstruction of order. today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking so humanities and stop threatening life support system. >> she joined us in 2006 and again in 2009.
this came on the heels of her book "challenge for africa." nice to see you again. let me start with the personal. this work is so personal for you, and i suspect anyone that becomes a nobel laureate in has something that connects them personally to the work they do. why is this so personal? >> i think because of who i am, farm,dy who grew oup on a my father, my parents worked on the land. it had something to do with the
water, the soil, the fire would i collected, so for me it said something, and i studied biology. it really becomes something so close to my life that when i see it degrading, my eyes notice, and i know now some people do not see what is happening. i'm sure i could have studied something else, but i knew these nuns who were keen to guide us, and by 10th grade they told me they think i can do science, and they almost separated us. some went to do teaching or medicine.
i was in curries to do science. -- encouraged to do science. tavis: what you make of the fact that you end up distinguishing yourself of the first woman in that region to get a ph.d. >> i think it is important to take the advantage of the opportunities we get. kids who guided us, who taught us with a commitment, and i am quite sure that it had a lot to do with parents and teachers.
tavis: what you call about first arriving in kansas from africa? fax we arrived in new york, and i took the bus all the way to kansas, and when i arrived, there were three of us. one of them was going to st. benedict, which is a college in the mountains, and when we arrived in kansas, which is a small town, the whole campus was out to welcome these young girls from africa, and it was a great feeling, and i will always be grateful that in the 60's, we all know how the 60's went in the united states, and this was an all white curls college, but we were received so warmly, and
we spent the best years of my life in kansas. >> when you look back, and you were in kansas with these people, and people like you were catching hell? >> it was a big contradiction. we were too young to understand the history behind it, so when we come to kansas there was a country -- a contradiction in that on campus people were so nice, but you could see the discrimination outside of campers. on weekends i remember.
there were two young kenyan men and men, and when they introduced us. i know they would take us to places where we could hang out, and we were with other black people, and then the civil rights movement broke out, and so much was happening with martin luther king and all the people in the forefront of that movement. it was not something we did not know, because kenyans and -- we lived a life where we are separated into three groups -- africans, asians, and europeans,
but as young people in our early 20's, it was amazing to see this in america, because america is this great nation where everyone was wonderful. tavis: you found out that is not always true. now what do you feel about not enough young african americans getting the chance of reaching young africans getting the chance you had? >> i think we are in a position where we have created universities and professors. there should meet -- there should be many professors.
they have not invested enough in education, and you will have a lot of people who will not get the opportunity i had, and even though we still have a lot of students in america, the greatest numbers are still at home common and we need to develop good universities. we need the kind of education that gives them business -- gives them a desire to keep moving. there are colleges of have
programs but send students to other countries is very important. but exposure is very important. tavis: let me ask about what it means to be an african. >> part of the challenge is there is absolutely nothing that prevents the african person who to be the best, and at this stage we ought to be thinking around the table 99 where nations are sitting with pride and confidence, because getting
rid of colonialism is something we should be very proud of, but we can only be really proud if we can show when we have done with freedom. therefore, what i am saying, you are challenged by the legacies you bring to the table. you are challenged by the ability to go forward. you are challenged by the perception the world has about you, and therefore, to be an rate butis something i also very challenging. >> how would you respond to
somebody that would say that the damage done, the remnants of colonialism in that part of the world in africa is so significant that it is wrong of you to say we no longer have excuses in africa? >> i think is to be able to say that -- we do not want to say we think legacy is not important, because legacy is very important, and we cannot wipe it out because legacy is part of our heritage, but it cannot be the reason why you want to continue being corrupt at the expense of your own people. it cannot be the reason you want to violate human rights of your own people.
it cannot be the reason you want to miss use gains in the name of your people, aunt -- to misuse aids in the name of your people, and because we use it to explain problems, i want to say that i accept their are problems we have and a burden we carry, but that this wine and now i say a legacy of woes, but that is not an excuse. 40 years down the road, how long are we going to continue? i am quite sure we could go forward, and we have examples, because there is southeast asia, which is also colonialize -- colonize. we were colonized for less than 100 years. some of them for close to 300 years, so the challenges is not
using that as an excuse, not to say because i went through this, i cannot do that. the thing to say is i almost came back. that is powerful. that is great. we ought to be able to say, we overcame that, and guess what? we are doing very well now. we are managing ourselves much better. we are respecting the rights of our people. we are standing up for ourselves. i am talking about leadership. i can say we are protecting our people. we are doing the right thing.
>> you mentioned daaid. there is a quote i want to share from an op-ed piece you wrote for the "los angeles times" which says, obama sends a signal i hope all africans he. time for excuses leadership is over. africans must not sit back and expect obama will lavish aid and attention on the continent because he has a kenyan father. they should demand the leadership they want rather than accept the leadership they get. there are two words i want to come with. aid and attention. there is another author who has gone a bit further than you and has made rounds of media in this country and has gotten a lot of
attention for saying the u.s. and other countries ought to cut off their aid to africa, cold stock if five years from now, no more aid for africa. they ought to be told in five years all they'd is going to stop. you got your own thoughts. is that too extreme, or is that about right? >> i want to see her arguments. she was working with the world bank, so i am quite sure she is talking from some information, and it is very good to see where she is basing her arguments, because the truth is people do need capital. people do need technology. people do need advice, and the bigger countries in europe are a
money. >> america barrault's money from others. -- borrows money from others. >> we do not have medicine. we do not have strong infrastructure. we do not have hospitals, so i do not think there is anything in the giving -- anything wrong with giving. what i think is bad is to make sure the resources are spent for the public for which they are given. that has to be done partly by the leadership, and that is why i put a lot of emphasis on the role of leadership but also on citizens, that citizens must also rise up and begin to hold their leaders accountable.
unfortunately, our people are not educated. they are not very well informed, so they are very loyal to their ethnicity, which i referred to as my nationality, so they tend to be over influenced by their leaders who take the advantage of them, but that is not an excuse, and i would not say "do not held us" because i am not sure if you you're noty lasthat, going to get a penny from anyone, i wonder if the president would get rid of all tss cars, all his private jeff in order for his people to get what they are looking for. i am not sure he would say, i am
going to reduce its i have so i can spend that money on education, we did reduce it by half so i could spend that money on education and medicine and infrastructure. we can get very frustrated with our leaders, but i am not sure that is the right attitude or the right steps to take. >> the second issue i mentioned was attention and to be sure there are parts of africa that have their share of problems. i wonder if you think they are exacerbated by the negative attention the continent gets courtesy of certain media outlets. >> one disadvantage we have in africa is we do not have our own story from our own perspective, so we depend on outside media, and i do not know why the cells when you have
negative net information from africa and -- it sells when you have negative information about africa, but when you have good things, it does not sell. you do not hear about the coup leaders. you often hear when there is a crisis. -- you do not hear about good leaders. you often hear when there is a crisis. tavis: as a citizen, you courageously stood up against the president of your country at the time, but i want to come back to this role of citizenry, because if you write to talk about leadership, but i want to talk about the challenge were citizenry is concerned. talk to me about the citizens of your country and the role they have to explain. >> -- they have to play.
>> citizens in many countries -- i know we have gone through a difficult time, but we have left the era of idi amin. when anybody tried to raise their voice would be dead or incarcerated, today we have a much more democratic state. there is a deliberate effort to promote good government, so much that if you come to power without using the democratic process, the african union refuses to admit you into that club. that is different from what it used to be like. i would say the citizens of
africa have a much better space to express their desire for better government, to choose leaders who can relate guide them, who can manage their country's more responsibly, and refused to be divided by what i would call tribal leaders, and to be guided by people who conveniently just want power and talk the language they want to hear because they want power. there is a lot of civic education in africa in order to educate the people on good government, a democratic systems, the justice system common and and as we do that, it is very important for the citizens to not sit back and hope the leaders will do it, yet
they are the ones casting the vote. the fact so many countries have leaderwho have been an elected isn't an -- is an improvement. it is the citizen who is casting the vote, so if the system allows himself to be right, to be persuaded by ethnicity, to be persuaded that because he is not the one who is being tortured, it is ok for another one to be tortured, or it is ok for another one the longing to another -- as long as we as citizens allow that to happen, we will get new leaders like this, and we cannot complain too much, because we are responsible. those people are able to say, i was elected. tavis: wangari maathai a
terrible price for her activism. she and her followers were beaten and jailed but never lost their will. she will be remembered for a committed champion of the environment, sustainable development, women's rights, and democracy. she will be celebrated and honored. she passed away at the age of 71. that is it for tonight. good night from l.a. thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a consersation with singing legend tony bennett on the release of his latest nancy
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